She calls herself an "eternal optimist" and in many ways, as president and CEO of Tourism Whistler, Barrett Fisher has to be optimistic. Since she took the helm of the organization six years ago, she has weathered the gamut of crises: SARS, airline woes, security issues, border hassles, high gas prices and more recently, the crash of the U.S. economy and the ensuing global economic downturn.
It hasn't been all doom and gloom, says Fisher. Three years ago Whistler came within a hair of meeting the same numbers as its banner 2000-01 year.
But now the resort is holding its breath in collective anticipation of meeting perhaps its biggest challenge to date: trying to get people to the resort in the months surrounding the Olympic Games (also known as combating Olympic aversion), as well as enticing them here in the midst of a global recession. In the first of a two-part interview, Barrett Fisher speaks to Pique's Alison Taylor about how Tourism Whistler has been preparing for the 2009-2010 season.
Pique: How important is Tourism Whistler's work on Olympic aversion?
BF: I would say that every year for the last five has posed a new challenge. We believed as an organization that 2008-09 was going to be the tough economy year and 09-10 is going to be the tough year due to Olympic aversion. We also believe that the economy is going to factor in to that. So we believe we've got a double whammy of Olympic aversion and economic aversion. So how important is it? It is probably a dual priority looking at 09-2010 with the one priority being to bust any myths about why people shouldn't travel here and then the other 50 per cent of our time is: how do we maximize and leverage all the media that are coming before, during and post Games?
Pique: You've been working on combating aversion already. Have you monitored the success of that work?
BF: We've done a variety of initiatives. Probably the first initiative that we did was back in early 2008 where we started to create a Frequently Asked Questions communiqué and we posted it on our website. (It answered questions like:) Can I travel to Whistler? Will there be skiing and snowboarding leading up to the Games, during Games time? Will there be accommodation available? Will I be able to book?... We recognized that there were these myths... The Q & A was really more targeted at an external audience....
We also needed an internal piece and so that's when we came out with a little postcard that was called "The Truth About 2010."... So it was really about understanding what were the concerns, what were the challenges, what were the facts, what were the realities, and how do we communicate that best to our customers, to our tour operators and to our in-resort visitors.